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Re: FBI seeks huge wiretapping system

At 12:09 PM 11/2/95 -0500, Phill Hallam wrote:
>On telephone tapping the statement was made that they do not allow 
>unauthorized taps and that technology was making wildcat taps by
>local officials harder. Which makes sense. 

At least for the moment, wildcat taps have become much easier,
since radio-tapping cellular phones is straightforward.

>It is a fair point that just because technology has changed the 
>nature of the game it should not mean that wiretaps cease to be 

Back before telephones, you could steam open someone's mail if they
sent it by the government post, but it was a lot harder if they sent it
by private messengers, and they could always send it in some
pre-arranged code.  And you could always hang out under the eaves
of their houses listening for conversations, but they could always
check for themselves or talk while walking down the street.
It's a fair point that just because technology has made it easier for
eavesdroppers and mail-snoops today doesn't mean that private
conversations should cease to be possible, or that we shouldn't be
able to use technology to preserve the security of our papers and effects.

>What is very odd however is the FBI request for $500 million. This is
>a somewhat large quantity of money to say the least. The telephone
>switches are programmable these days, it should be possible to 
>provide tapping at substantially less cost. 

$500 million is a drop in the bucket; they're talking about wedging themselves
into multiple places in the telephone system, taking up to 1 percent of the
capacity (without compensation as near as I can tell), and they want
the ability to do all this without the inconvenience of going out to
telephone wire offices where somebody might ask to see a warrant.

>Mind you the Federal government is not known for tight cost control. 
Indeed :-)

>The NSA reconned that a DES cracker would cost substantially more than 
>$1 million because the system costs would be much higher than the component
> Anyway the NSA price estimate was "two or more orders of magnitude more in

Wiener's design was about two orders of magnitude cheaper than Wayner's
and the DEC guy's designs, which were in turn far cheaper than any previous.
But it's a believable design, and could probably be done within a factor of
two-three of his cost predictions; "system costs" need to include things
like wiretapping equipment to steal and record the data to be cracked,
and government employees to operate it, and bureaucrats and politicians
to tell them what to do and who to target, and lots of real estate for them all.
But to reach two or more orders of magnitude cost increase,
I'd think you'd need a far bigger collection of cracking machines
that Wiener's - perhaps to crack a few hundred keys per day.

Interesting comments on banks' use of DES for authentication rather than
privacy....  of course, if the government wants to tap banks' conversations,
it can generally just demand that the banks tell them the information,
at least for US-based and other cooperative banks.

>If the NSA want a cheap DES cracker they have my number. I'll take 5%
>ot the difference between the actual cost and $100 million (their
>estimate of cost) as my fee.

As Rodney Dangerfield said "Well to start with, you gotta throw in
10% for graft and corruption."

#                                       Thanks;  Bill
# Bill Stewart, Freelance Information Architect, [email protected]
# Phone +1-510-247-0664 Pager/Voicemail 1-408-787-1281